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Friday, April 24, 2015

Ughhhhhhhhhh Shingles

Three weeks ago I was standing in the kitchen washing dishes and noticed that I kept scratching the right side of my back. It was an annoying itch so I went into the bathroom to look in the mirror, I could not see any reason at all for the itchiness and after a while it subsided. On Sunday evening my back ached on the right side above my waistline, I had worked hard all day cooking Easter dinner for the family, cleaning up afterwards, and playing corn hole for the first time in 2015. I assumed my back ached because I was tired from a busy day, I did not sleep well that night. Monday night was the same, a sore back, no position was comfortable and another restless night. On Tuesday evening I left with my son, daughter-in-law and grand daughters to drive to Florida to see my parents, a fifteen plus hour drive. We drove all night, my back bothered me quite a bit. The next morning my back was super bothering me, we still had five hours of driving to do, and the pain was now radiating through my ribs and around my right side and across my stomach. I felt quiet unwell and began imagining all kinds of things must be wrong with me. Suddenly I thought about shingles, and thanks to the wonders of the cell phones and internet, within a minute I was reading articles about shingles and understanding that my symptoms seemed to be the onset of this nasty illness. A day later my self diagnoses was confirmed when I noticed a nasty rash developing on the right side of my stomach and back.
The rash grew for around five days and then looked yucky and has since slowly dried up and scabbed over. The shingles pain is very odd, sometimes just itchiness and burning, other times such annoying irritation, and often deep pain that feels like extreme bruising or a very pulled muscle. I have had very few good nights of sleep, and have felt very tired, tonight is the first night in a week that I have stayed up past 8:30 pm. Tylenol and Advil have helped immensely. Initially calamine lotion and cortisone cream helped the rash when it was at a very itchy, annoying stage.
It seems this virus lasts for three to five weeks, I am hoping that I am now cruising into the final weeks of battling shingles, I sure hope so. The good thing, the younger you are when you get shingles the less likely you are to have long lasting after effects from it, and once you have shingles it is unlikely that it will reoccur.
Walking helps a lot to relieve the pain of shingles, but I have not walked as much as usual because some days I have simply been too tired, but I am doing the best I can. Today I decided to sign up for a 5K run, a first for me, and I am excited as it gives me something to work towards and I should be well over the shingles by May 23, whether I will be quite ready to run the full 5K who knows, but I will give it my best shot. It made me feel a lot better this afternoon to have something to focus on in the near future that will be a new experience and it is a motivator to get back out to daily exercise and not let these stupid shingles slow me down.

Friday, April 3, 2015

A Journey to Good Health

Just over a year ago I turned fifty. I was overweight, and continued to gain weight through the spring of 2014 and by late summer was at the heaviest I had ever been in my life. I did not feel good at all, my clothes were barely fitting me, my joints ached, I walked at a very slow pace, I was always tired. My blood pressure was high so I went to the doctor last June and he put me on medication to control it, but he also said that I should lose weight and start walking each day.

Well June ended, July came and went and I gained more weight, in early August our fifth grandchild was born, Dave and I had our picture taken with all five of our grandchildren, I looked at the picture and was disturbed at just how large I had become, I felt upset and frustrated, I knew I needed to do something and I knew that I had to start with my diet, lots of baked goods, candies, snacks and daily overeating had taken their toll.

At first I just started eating less and avoided junk food, I lost ten or twelve pounds fairly quickly, then the weight loss slowed and a pound or two crept back. Frustration kicked in, I needed a better way to track what I was doing and to measure progress. In October we had a bonfire and invited family to come hang out. While sitting around the bonfire someone asked my husband's brother-in-law how he had lost weight. Bill was never a heavy man but over the past few years he had gained about twenty pounds, he started feeling unwell and went to the doctor and they diagnosed him with type 2 diabetes, his doctor said if he would commit to losing 15 pounds he would probably be able to reverse the diagnoses. Bill found an app on the Livestrong website and started using it, it tracked his food and helped him stay on track, he lost thirty pounds, he looks and feels great, but best of all when he returned to the doctor his blood sugar had normalized and he no longer has type 2 diabetes. My son-in-law's father, Conley, did the same thing, he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, followed the doctors orders to lose weight, and low and behold he no longer has type 2 diabetes.  I was inspired by both Bill and Conley, they both decided to take control of their health and are all the better for it.

After the bonfire I downloaded the Livestrong app, I used it to track all of my food and kept within my calorie allowance each day and by Thanksgiving I had lost almost twenty-five pounds, although still heavy I was feeling really good. Unfortunately the Livestrong app had many issues working on my phone and when I contacted their tech support they told me it wasn't supported on my device. Thankfully I found another app, MyfitnessPal, and to say it has been a lifesaver is not an exaggeration. It helps me track all of my food so I can stay within my calorie budget, and it sort of retrains you to eat better, I always get plenty of fiber each day, enough protein, eat my green leafy vegetables, and enjoy a treat here and there, but I can plan my day to make sure I don't overeat.

Over thanksgiving my sister and brother-in-law were visiting from England, both are in great shape, they run, they bike, they eat healthy foods and both are lean, trim, and energetic. Each Thanksgiving they have done the Turkey Gobbler run, a Fort Wayne tradition on Thanksgiving morning, when they returned from their run they encouraged me to start training so I can join them on the 2015 run. I felt encouraged by my sister and brother-in-law.

My sister Marika has also been an inspiration on my weight loss journey, she was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in January of 2013, she had a partial mastectomy but refused further traditional treatment of chemotherapy and radiation.  Marika instead did research on diet and natural approaches to treating cancer, she visited a doctor in New York and followed his regimen, she follows a very strict diet for optimal health but my goodness she is the picture of health and two years later remains cancer free and is living her life to the fullest. Another person who decided to take control of her health and is all the better for it.

Well after Thanksgiving I found another app, MapMyWalk, an awesome app, it does what it says, it maps your walk, it times your pace and tells you how fast you walk and kind of challenges and encourages you to compete against yourself.  I have gone from walking slowly and painfully last summer, to taking five to six mile walks daily at a pace of fourteen and a half minutes per mile. As I march around the countryside I feel alive, pumped up, good. Last week I did a 9.8 mile walk, I was tired when I returned home, but felt wonderful when I thought back to where I was a year ago. I incorporate some running into my walks, one day I jogged two and half miles without stopping, but the running is coming along slowly, I will persevere.

Now it is April, I am down sixty pounds. Sixty pounds! That is a bag and a half of softener salt, six sacks of potatoes, that I am no longer lugging around. No wonder my joints ached, no wonder I moved slowly. I still have around twenty pounds to go, but I feel absolutely fabulous, and my first major goal was met two weeks ago.

Remember the blood pressure medication? Well doing what my doctor recommended, walking each day and losing weight paid off.  My blood pressure started getting very low on the bp meds, 93 over 60, those sort of readings, so I called the doctor and they said halve the dose and come see them in a week. I did that and they said to STOP taking the medication and keep an eye on my bp, it has been two weeks and my bp has remained in a normal range all of that time and I feel so happy to be off of the medication as this was one of my main goals when I started my weight loss journey.  My next goal is to reach a healthy BMI, I am two pounds from the high end of normal weight BMI for my height, so the goal is almost reached. My third goal is to get twenty more pounds off so that I am in the mid-range of healthy BMI for my height.  And my final goal is to maintain a healthy weight for the rest of my life by eating a good diet and daily exercise.

My motivation to walk each day is that it is my daily dose of medicine for my bp, I would much rather take a brisk walk than a pill. My children have encouraged me and for my birthday this year, I turned 51, they gave me a FitBit, and I love it, it tracks my steps each day, my heart rate, my sleep, it links with MyFitnessPal to track my exercise and calories, it is a great little motivator, you really, really want to make sure you get the 10,000 steps in each day. (about five miles).

Another inspiration is a post that was shared on FaceBook about a lady called Ernestine Shepherd, google her, the seven minute YouTube video is well worth watching. Ernestine is the worlds oldest female body builder, she will be 79 this coming June.  Ernestine takes no meds, is lean and strong as can be, she runs, yes runs, 10 miles each day, she eats a healthy diet, she does weight training for two hours a day, and she teaches exercise classes at her church, in addition to competing in body builder competitions and giving motivational speeches. She is 78! And, Ernestine looks FABULOUS in a bikini when she is competing, and did I mention, she is 78!  When I don't feel like exercising I think about Ernestine getting up at three each morning to run 10 miles.

In closing it takes self-motivation to make a life change, but it also takes encouragement and inspiration from family and friends and from people we don't know who share their stories. I hope my story helps someone move off of the couch to start taking those first steps towards changing their health and their life.  Not only do I feel better, I look better, I have energy, I have strength, I move quickly, I feel twenty years younger, taking control of your health is about the best thing you can do for yourself.

Thank you for reading to the end of this very long post :)